e-books

To follow up on my earlier post about print-on-demand paperback self-publishing options, here is a primer to help you create, format, upload, and distribute your writing in e-book format. The best part is that the process I detail below is 100% free. Always be wary of anyone charging you money in relation to publishing your book — not that it’s never a good idea to get some professional help, but you should know exactly what you’re paying for and whether it’s worth it.

The down side to spending zero money on your e-book is that you have to do all the work. Cover design, editing, formatting, uploading, promoting, etc. Don’t expect to spend an hour and have a nice-looking, professionally-formatted e-book. I’ve spent many, many hours getting my e-book files just right (ensuring proper indents, special characters, interior images, and tables of contents in various electronic formats). Hopefully, my experience can save you some time.

The first thing you’ll need is a novel (or short story) in electronic format, probably in Microsoft Word. For purposes of creating an e-book, you generally want to strip out all the fancy formatting you might use in a printed book: get rid of fancy fonts (just put everything in Times New Roman), strange indents or block quotes, and weird symbols. You can keep bold and italics, and smart quotes and em dashes should translate properly, although they sometimes cause problems. It’s generally better to use first-line paragraph indents in Word (instead of hitting the tab key — and never use spaces to indent paragraphs). Do not leave blank lines between paragraphs, since some e-book readers add them and you’ll end up with triple spacing! The basic rule is: the simpler, the better. Various e-book readers will display your text in different ways, and users can adjust font sizes at will, so just forget about the idea of controlling every aspect of how the text will look and where pages within a chapter break (like you would in a printed book), and keep the formatting clean and simple. Do not use multiple line breaks, those look terrible on the screen — use a blank line and a row of asterisks to indicate chapter or section breaks instead.

The second thing you’ll need is a front cover, which should be in 2:3 ratio. It should be at least 800 pixels tall, although you’ll be using the same image (along with a spine and back cover) if you make a paperback, and that requires at least 300 dpi, so it’s best to make it high-resolution to begin with (1800×2700 pixels for a 6×9 paperback). Any interior art (like an “about the author” photo) should be black and white and at least 150 dpi. The less interior art, the simpler it will be.

Amazon

Amazon is the most important e-book distributor; it still probably accounts for somewhere between 50% and 80% of all e-book sales. You publish e-books to the Amazon Kindle store using Amazon’s free Digital Text Platform (DTP) service at dtp.amazon.com. There, you can enter info about your book (author name, description, price, etc.) and upload your e-book cover and interior file. Amazon pays either 35% or 70% royalties; there’s more info in my recent post here.

You can upload the interior file in MOBI (the Kindle’s native format), or DTP will convert it for you if you upload an HTML or Word file. MOBI is best; HTML should be OK, Word is iffy. You can create MOBI files using the free Calibre (Mac or PC) or MobiPocket Creator (PC only) programs. A full MOBI or HTML tutorial is beyond the scope of this blog post — but see below for an easier, non-technical solution.

Smashwords

You’ll probably also want to upload your e-book to the free Smashwords e-book seller/distributor service. Smashwords sells e-books through its own website, but also will distribute them for you to be sold on B&N.com, Kobo, Sony, and the Apple iBook Store. They charge nothing up front, but they take a 15% cut of royalties.

Smashwords has an excellent free Style Guide that will help you prepare your Microsoft Word document for upload. It basically explains how to do what I said above: simplify and clean up your Word document, remove line breaks and extraneous formatting that translates poorly to e-books, etc. You can then upload your Word file and Smashwords will convert that file to all the e-book formats you need, including MOBI and ePub.

The Easy Way

The simplest way to get your e-book distributed as widely as possible and looking pretty good is to: (1) read and follow the Smashwords Style Guide, (2) create a Word document with simple, clean formatting, (3) upload that Word document to Smashwords and let them convert it for you, and (4) take the MOBI file that Smashwords creates and upload it to Amazon’s DTP. You should end up with a nice-looking e-book, and it will be available on Amazon and all the major e-book sellers.

The Perfectionist’s Way

Some of us, especially after you start selling more than a handful of copies, want to craft the most pristine, best-looking, and most full-featured e-books possible. It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time and effort and research (it’s also beyond the scope of this blog post). But it’s possible to create a proper cover, page breaks, special formatting, interior photos or artwork, a table of contents, and other useful e-book features. This involves creating an HTML file, which is trickier than it sounds, since Word’s “Save As HTML” produces code that needs a significant amount of manual cleaning up. That HTML file is then fed into an e-book creation program (like the two I mentioned earlier) and tweaked to produce a MOBI file that can be directly uploaded to Amazon, and that should retain all your exact formatting and features.

Conclusion

Basically, the aspiring e-book publisher (make no mistake: if you’re doing this yourself, you now become a publisher, not merely an author, and must take on all the duties of a publisher) has three choices: (1) go with a simple, clean e-book that will be OK but not spectacularly formatted, (2) spend a lot more time and effort producing perfect MOBI (and possibly ePub) files, or (3) hire a professional to format the e-book for you. Which option you select (I went with #2) depends on your budget, your technical ability, how much time you have, and how many e-books you realistically expect to sell.

Jul 192010

Amazon announced today that their e-book sales have overtaken hardcover sales. The numbers are actually quite staggering: for the latest quarter, Amazon sold 143 e-books for every 100 hardcovers they sold. The numbers for the past month are even more impressive: 180 e-books for every 100 hardcovers — nearly double. Even more impressive is that they aren’t juicing the numbers, as they are not including free e-book downloads (like Apple probably did), and are even including hardcover sales where there is no corresponding Kindle version. Wow.

A few other tidbits:

  • Amazon’s e-book sales from the first half of 2010 were triple that of the first half of 2009.
  • Amazon exceeded the impressive industry sales stats I mentioned yesterday of 163% increased sales year-over-year in May, and 207% year-to-date.
  • It was recently announced that James Patterson was the first author to sell a million e-books, 1.14 million, to be exact. Of those, Amazon sold 867,881 of them (over 76%).
  • The growth rate of Kindle sales has tripled since the recent price drop from $259 to $189, and have increased each month in the quarter (April, May, and June). Perhaps now we can stop hearing about how the iPad (released April 3) will “kill” the Kindle?

One interesting note is that Amazon didn’t specify how many of its e-book sales are through the Kindle for iPad app. But considering that Kindle 2 unit sales have been increasing each month, and that the Kindle is better suited for hard-core readers than the iPad, I doubt that Kindle book sales on the iPad were more than a minor percentage.

Either way, very impressive numbers that paint a very positive outlook for e-books and readers.

May 2010 E-Book Sales: $29.3M

Posted by Always Write at 5:47 PM Tagged with: ,
Jul 162010

May 2010 e-book sales: $29.3M

May 2010 e-book sales data is in from the Association of American Publishers, and they are up 162.8% over last May, totaling $29,300,000 for May 2010. Year-to-date, e-book sales are up 207.4% from Jan – May 2009.

The most interesting tidbit is that, at this time last year, e-books comprised 2.89% of all trade book sales. This year so far, they’ve almost tripled, up to 8.48%. That’s not only a huge jump, but we’re really starting to approach very significant percentages (to put that in perspective, New York & Massachusetts combined account for 8.42% of the U.S. population). Some popular books are seeing even higher numbers — e-books accounted for almost 30% of the first-week sales of the #1 NYT Bestseller The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider they’re measuring dollar figures, and e-books generally cost less than paper books, so e-books’ percentage of total copies sold would be even higher.

The monthly e-book sales numbers so far this year:

  • Jan 2010: $31.9 M
  • Feb 2010: $28.9 M
  • Mar 2010: $28.5 M
  • Apr 2010: $27.4 M
  • May 2010: $29.3 M

I was surprised to see even the small dips in March and April, but May appears to be back on the upswing. Perhaps e-book sales are stronger over the winter when people would rather curl up with a good e-book than brave the snow to head to a bookstore. But, for comparison, the first 5 months of 2010 total $146M, whereas the total for all 12 months of 2008 was only $56.5M.

Please see this older post for earlier numbers and a more detailed breakdown on e-book sales vs. hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market paperbacks.

How-To: Buy An Amazon E-Book

Posted by Always Write at 7:55 AM Tagged with: ,
Jun 172010

Amazon is far and away the #1 e-book seller, and it’s easy to see why: they have the largest selection (over 600,000 titles, plus millions of public domain works), generally have the best prices, the #1 e-book reader (the Kindle), and software that allows you to read their e-books on multiple devices including PCs, Macs, Kindles, iPhones, iPod Touches, iPads, Blackberries, and Android cell phones (coming soon).

To buy your first e-book from Amazon, it only takes 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Create an Amazon account. (Already have one? Great, proceed to step 2!) To create your Amazon account, simply visit www.amazon.com and click the link at the very top where it says, “Hello. Sign in to get personalized recommendations. New customer? Start here.” It will ask you to enter an email address and ask if you have a password. You’ll select “No, I am a new customer.” Then, simply enter the requested information and create your Amazon account.

Step 2: Download and activate the Kindle App on the device you’d like to read on. Visit this page and download the app for the computer or smartphone you’d like to read your e-book on. Once downloaded, you will need to run the application and “register” it to your Amazon account. Just enter the email address and password for the account you created in Step 1.

Step 3: Shop and buy your e-books! Amazon sells countless e-books, most costing far less than printed books. Just use the search function near the top of the page (select “Kindle Store” from the drop-down menu) to find what you want. Or, go straight to a particular book (perhaps my new novel, The Twiller, coming out June 18?). Click on the big orange button in the upper right that says “Buy now with 1-Click.” It will ask you which device you want to deliver your purchase to. Choose the device you registered in Step 2. Then, complete the checkout process.

That’s it! Enjoy your e-book! Just email me or leave a comment if you have any questions.

Publishers vs. E-Books

Posted by Always Write at 10:27 PM Tagged with: ,
Jun 012010

400 more years! 400 more years!

I’ve known for some time that the large print publishing companies are not fans of e-books. Many people wondered how publishers could be so silly, pricing e-books above (sometimes well above) the price of paperbacks, delaying e-book releases, providing simple OCR scans of paper books (instead of properly formatting or often even proofreading their e-book releases), blocking useful features like text-to-speech and lending, and infesting e-books with invasive copy protection (DRM) that annoys legitimate users. But I knew it wasn’t that publishers didn’t “get” e-books … OK, it wasn’t just that publishers didn’t get e-books: they are actively trying to forestall e-book adoption as long as they can. Why? Because there are 6 huge, multinational publishing conglomerates on top of the current food chain, divvying up the lion’s share of the $25 billion/year book industry, and a change as dramatic as the switch to e-books threatens to shake up their industry. Some publishers, by undergoing lots of painful downsizing, restructuring, giving up large New York offices, and doing some long-term thinking at the expense of this year’s profits, might remain relevant in the publishing landscape of the future. But not all will. So I’ve said before that they are forestalling that day of reckoning as long as they can. (They must understand how typewriter manufacturers and buggy-whip makers felt.)

But I’ve never before seen them admit it. See, they’ve always claimed to be in favor of e-books, since it’s clear that more and more authors and readers (their supposed allies and customers) like them. But now, David Shanks, CEO of Penguin Group (one of the “Big 6” publishers) came right out and admitted that We need to protect as long as we can the apparatus that sells physical books.

UPDATE: As another example, Nan Graham, the SVP and EIC at Scribner (Steven’s King’s publisher) created a nicely-crafted hardcover, and explained that “We hoped that a handsome object would slow the migration to e-book for King.”

In other words, it’s not about innovating, or even keeping up with changing times and technologies. They’ve stopped pretending they’re doing this for authors. They’re no longer claiming that they’re just trying to “preserve the value of e-books” or create “sustainable pricing” — for the authors, of course. They’ve finally admitted they not only don’t care about the readers, but they’ll do whatever they can to hold onto their position, at the expense of authors and readers and progress. As I said all along, it’s really just about protection. Not protecting literature or the future of books, just protecting themselves and their bottom lines.

When big publishers (like Jonathan Galassi) start talking about how they need to “maintain the value of time-honored roles,” I think it’s safe to say the writing is on the wall. (Although they probably get a sympathetic look from alchemists, blacksmiths, and cave-painters.) Companies that look to the past and seek to maintain the status quo don’t even notice the innovators (the Amazons and the Googles) as they rush past them and into the future.

As one last example of the “e-books are the enemy” attitude, consider this exchange between author Scott Turow and Galassi:

Turow: “Why did publishers agree to allow e-books to be available at the same time as paper books?”

Galassi: “It was a mistake to let Amazon put out e-books simultaneously and charge the price it did [$9.99]. It will have a negative effect on the paperback.”

So, there you have it. It was a mistake to let the largest bookseller in the world sell books to readers who wanted to buy those books (publishers should have delayed them and charged readers more instead). Why was it a mistake? Because it was bad for readers? For authors? No, bad for the paperback. Which really means: bad for the current crop of the Big 6 publishers, whose entire business model isn’t about selling literature, it’s about moving paper. The only thing that confuses me is, if they clearly care more about paper than they care about authors or readers, why are we supposed to care about what happens to them?

E-Book Sales Continue Rapid Growth

Posted by Always Write at 2:09 AM Tagged with: ,
May 252010

Quarterly E-Book Sales, Q1 2008 -- Q1 2010

The sales data is in for book sales in March, and the news for e-books continues to impress. Year-over-year sales of e-books are up a staggering 251.9%. This, after e-book sales nearly doubled from 2007 to 2008 and then more than tripled from 2008 to 2009.

According to estimates by the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales totaled $28,500,000 in March, for a total of $89,300,000 for the first quarter of 2010.

Keep in mind two things: first, that these numbers do not include sales of independent authors (like myself). True, I won’t move that bar much by myself, but with tens of thousands of authors like me, the effect could be significant. Second, these numbers do not include any sales from the Apple iBook store or through the Kindle for iPad app, since the iPad wasn’t released until April 3.

Even when comparing e-books to print books, the news is still promising. Two major publishers (Hachette and Simon & Schuster) reported that e-book sales for Q1 2010 constituted 8% of their total revenue. Keep in mind that (a) not all printed books currently make sense as e-books (children’s books, cookbooks, picture books, etc.), (b) not all books that do make sense have been released in e-book format yet, and (c) that e-books generally sell for less than printed books, so 8% of revenue would mean a higher percentage of unit sales. It is reasonable to conclude that, of books with both a printed and e-book counterpart, e-books could make up anywhere from 10 to 20% of unit sales. Amazon has already reported that their e-book sales account for about 40% of their total book sales (for titles with both versions available).

Just to keep the numbers in perspective, let’s look at overall print book sales compared to e-book sales. While it’s true that the percentage increases for e-books have been very impressive, they had started from such a small fraction of print book sales that they still paled in comparison. Well, what if I told you that, in March 2010 (the latest month data is available), total e-book sales were over 53% as much as total mass-market paperback sales. Then, what if we compare the year-over-year 251.9% increase in e-books with the 18.1% decrease in mass market sales from last year. Which would you bet on being higher next year? How about this Christmas?

Here’s the full chart (with year-over-year growth percentage over the columns):

Total March 2010 Book & E-Book Sales

True, e-books have a ways to go before they surpass combined print sales. But comparing the rate at which those numbers are changing (e-book sales exploding while print sales stagnate or decrease), considering the proliferation of new e-book readers like the iPad, and keeping in mind that more bookstores close every day, what do you think this chart will look like next year? How about 3 or 5 years from now?

Exciting times….

Introduction to E-Books

Posted by Always Write at 3:33 PM Tagged with: , ,
Apr 082010

You may have noticed me talking a lot about e-books lately. That’s because I’m excited about them, and the opportunities they present for readers and authors alike.

E-books have several advantages over paper books: they cost less to produce and distribute, they’re better for the environment, they can be downloaded instantly, thousands can be stored on a single device, they never get old or have pages fall out, you can search them and pop up word definitions, etc. People who try them generally like them. A lot. And we realized we read for the words, not the “feel” of paper or the smell of glue. But what if you don’t know where to start?

It’s easy to get started reading your first e-book. No, you don’t need a special e-book reader, you can read them on the computer or smartphone you already have. And they’re generally cheaper than printed books. Since anything published before 1923 is in the public domain in the U.S., you can even read thousands of great classics (Hamlet, Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, etc.) for free. You can download them in PDF, plain text, or as a webpage (HTML), any of which are easy to read on any computer.

For selection and ease of use, you can’t beat Amazon. The best way to read them is on a Kindle, of course, but Amazon makes free reading apps that let you read Kindle e-books on PCs, Macs, Blackberries, iPhones/iPods/iPads, and more. You can browse and purchase books (including free books) from Amazon, and you can read them with any of their reading apps. It will even “sync” your location, so if you get to Chapter 3 on your PC, you can pick up your iPhone or Kindle and start reading where you left off. Pretty cool.

Ready to get started? I may be biased, but I think there are worse ways to spend a few bucks than picking up my novels in e-book format. There are many ways to do it:

  • If you’d like to read on a computer or laptop, just click the “Buy Now” buttons in the column to the right and pick up a copy in PDF format, which can be easily read on any computer. Grab just the first, or splurge and get the “Combination Package,” which gets you 3 novels for less than the cost of a movie.
  • If you buy them through my site, I will also send them to you in any format you may need, now or in the future, so you can put them on that Kindle or iPad you get for your next birthday.
  • Want to read through Amazon, on your Kindle, computer, Blackberry, iPhone, iPod, or iPad? One-click them from Amazon.
  • Do you own a Nook? Pick them up at Barnes & Noble.
  • How about another e-reader: Sony, iRex, BeBook, CyBook, etc.? Smashwords has you covered in any conceivable file format.
  • Did you just get a shiny new iPad? Want to try out the iBook Store? Annoyed that most e-books there cost $15? My e-books are still under $3 in the iBook Store (or just search for my name from your iPhone or iPad).

Once you get hooked on e-books, you may want to consider picking up an e-book reader. There are several options. My favorite is the Kindle 2 for $259 (UPDATE: the newer Kindle 3 starts at just $139), but Barnes & Noble’s Nook or the Sony e-readers make fine choices as well. There are even some $99 LCD-based e-readers cropping up, although they’re harder on the eyes and not as easy to use. On the other end of the spectrum, you can buy yourself a fancy iPhone or iPad and use those to read (if you can tear yourself away from games and Facebook).

E-books are the future. Sure, there will always be printed books, just like we still have radio and horses, even though TV and cars are quite popular. Why not give e-books a try — for free or just a few bucks — and see what all the fuss is about?

As I mentioned in my last post, e-books are surging in popularity, and for good reason. I mentioned that the surge in e-books has impacted me as a reader. But it has impacted me even more dramatically as a writer.

I wrote my first novel, Right Ascension, in 2000, and the sequel, Declination, was completed in 2002. While they enjoyed some early success and some sporadic pockets of sales, and received positive feedback from readers, they essentially sold about as well as most self-published books, which is to say: hardly at all. A few hundred copies over the course of several years.

Then, I learned about Amazon and their Digital Text Platform, and I published my novels to be sold through Amazon for the Kindle.

And people started buying it.

Not a ton, mind you, but some. And so I did some research. And I spent weeks learning how to perfect Kindle formatting. I spent time on Kindle boards, getting to know readers and what they wanted. I learned that the stigma against self-publishing is disappearing, just as it did for “indie” musicians and movies. In fact, people were sick of the same regurgitated tripe being spewed forth by the big publishers. Think about the three biggest hits of the past five years: Harry Potter, Dan Brown, and Twilight. Are any of those examples of great writing?

In December of 2009, I lowered my e-book prices to just 99 cents each. I debated back and forth for a while. But they’re worth more than that! I cried. But I did it, as a grand experiment, and it worked. While I had cut the price down from $5 to $1, my sales went up by a factor of 7. Cool.

Then, as I started becoming more active on various forums, and (I hope) started getting some positive buzz and word-of-mouth going, my sales more than doubled. Then doubled again. I sold more in a month than I had in the past decade. Then it happened again the next month. And, guess what? Readers didn’t care that my book wasn’t printed by a big publisher. Heck, they didn’t care if it was printed at all. They didn’t care that it wasn’t in bookstores. Because over 98% of all those sales were e-books. And my e-books look just as good — actually, better — than e-books from big publishers. In fact, mine are meticulously formatted and proofread and have a table of contents, while theirs are often error-filled scans of printed books. Mine enable text-to-speech, while theirs block the feature. Mine are not saddled with DRM (copy protection), and I offer them in multiple formats instead of tying you down to one device. And, while readers feel gouged by publishers raising prices from $9.99 to $14.99 and charging more for e-books than paperbacks, mine are just 99 cents.

Now, for the first time, I feel that there is a possibility — certainly not a certainty — but a chance of actually making a living at writing. For a long time I was told that I had a real talent for writing, and I worked hard at it, but the only option was to send query letters into the black hole of agents’ and publishers’ “slush piles,” sometimes getting a polite form rejection letter, sometimes a scrawled “NO” written in the margin of my own letter and sent back in my return envelope, usually no response at all, and never even once did anyone actually read the book they were rejecting.

So I’ve bypassed the gatekeepers, and am taking my work directly to the readers. Yes, it’s taken a ton of time, but it’s cost me very little money in the digital realm, and my books sit on Amazon’s virtual shelves next to (and even above!) Asimov and Heinlein and Vonnegut. And maybe, if I continue to work hard and hone my craft, write more novels, promote like crazy, get great editors to help ensure the books meet or exceed the quality of “traditionally-published” stuff, and get a bit of luck, I just might eke out a living at doing what I love. And that chance, remote though it still might be, did not exist two short years ago.

I’m excited. Are you?

Apr 012010

Recently, I was shocked to receive a Kindle from a good friend for my birthday. This amazing device has impacted my life in multiple ways. First, I very quickly became an e-book reading convert: the reading experience on a Kindle is, IMO, superior to that of a printed book. Some of the advantages:

  • e-books are generally less expensive than printed books (they should be, since they cost nothing to print, ship, or store)
  • portability and convenience: I can download books instantly, wirelessly, and carry thousands around anywhere
  • the built-in dictionary is invaluable; I would miss the ability to look up or double-check words with a flick of my finger
  • I actually find it easier and more natural to hold the Kindle (which is lighter than a hardcover) and turn pages with one hand
  • I enjoy being able to set the font size to something more comfortable for my eyes

There are other advantages, but those are the main ones for me. After using the Kindle for a while, I do not at all miss the “feel” or “smell” of paper books. And I can see how a wide variety of people, once they give e-books a chance, will come to depend on these features. Not to mention that, in the next few years, I expect e-book readers to offer:

  • color screens that play video
  • perhaps flexible or foldable screens that are unbreakable and allow for larger screens that can fit into a pocket
  • even lighter weight and more memory
  • greater selection of e-books (essentially every book in or out of print)
  • improvements in text-to-speech
  • much easier lending capabilities: email a title to your friend to borrow, and it automatically reappears on your device in 2-4 weeks

I expect more and more people will fall in love with e-book reading. I spend a lot of time on e-book reader forums, and lots of people already love their e-book readers. Love. Most of them say they will never go back to printed books, and that they are reading more than ever before. Not to mention that the last of the paper book converts will die off and the newer generations will consume everything electronically.

e-book sales chart

Go, baby, go.

So, it comes as no surprise to me that the e-book market has tripled in 2009, after doubling in 2008. Or that it is on pace to double or triple again this year. Or that Amazon, the world’s largest bookseller, sold more e-books than printed books last Christmas. E-books made up 3.31% of all book sales in 2009, and that number will likely increase to 6-10% this year. By 2015 or 2020, what will that percentage look like? 25%? 50%? 75%?

What does this mean for printed books, and the future of publishing? I’ll get more into that in my next post. But I fully expect the acceleration of e-book sales to continue. The reading experience is just too good, and they just make too much sense not to.

Apr 012010

If you’ve been following e-publishing lately, you may have heard that today, 5 out of the “Big 6” publishers forced Amazon to agree to an “agency model” when selling e-books instead of the previous “retail model.” Under the retail model, publishers set a “list price” for e-books (usually the same $25 or so they set for the hardcover), and retailers like Amazon pay them a fixed percentage of that price, such as 50%. Amazon would then pay the publisher $12.50 for each e-book sale, and price the book however they wanted: $12.51, $19.99, $25, or even $9.99 (as a loss leader).

As of today, 5 large publishers told Amazon they must sell their e-books under the agency model (physical books remain on the retail model). Under the agency model, the publisher sets the final sale price, and Amazon gets a flat 30% cut of each sale. That means Amazon is not allowed to have “sales” on e-books, and that a particular e-book should be the same price everywhere. This shift was caused in large part by the entry of the iPad (which I am still not convinced will be a popular place for people who actually buy and read e-books) and Apple’s embracing of the agency model (just like in their iTunes Store and App Store).

Apparently, the large publishers weren’t happy about Amazon taking a loss and selling NYT bestsellers for $9.99 (even though they sent the publishers $12.50 per sale), because they are concerned Amazon is “devaluing e-books.” If you ask me, the large publishers are terrified of e-books, since they require a massive shift in their business model (involving costly layoffs, restructuring, reduction of rent and other overhead, changing contracts and relationships, etc.). They know that some publishers might adapt well and stay on top … but not all of them will. So they seem intent on stalling e-book adoption as long as possible (as evidenced by them trying to raise prices in the face of clear consumer outcry, attaching invasive DRM to their titles, disabling TTS access, delaying e-book releases, and generally releasing poorly-formatted scans of physical books).

So, today, most large publisher e-books will go up in price from $9.99 to $12.99 or $14.99.

It’s times like this that I’m glad to be an independent author … while the idea of a huge book deal with a traditional publishing house had always been my dream, I’m thinking more and more of the benefits of being nimble in a quickly-changing e-book industry. I wonder if the big publishing houses read forums and blogs and comments like I do; I wonder if they have any idea what their customers are feeling or how they think. Sometimes I wonder if they “get” e-books at all. It sure seems like they see them as a threat to be fought, instead of an amazing opportunity to be embraced. “Let’s delay releases! Jack up prices to double that of paperbacks! Infest books with DRM! Format them like crap!”

One thing I know for sure is that the vast majority of Kindlers are passionate readers (in a world where readers are an endangered species). In other words, the publishers’ very best customers. Or, as I see it, the reason I write.

I hate to say it, but the big publishers jacking up prices can only make the prices charged by most indie authors look that much better in comparison ($0.99 vs. $14.99 — wow). But, if they succeed in killing the fledgling e-book industry before it can really take off, then we all lose.

© 2010 David Derrico